Sex, Genes, Technology, and Humans

I recently got the opportunity to read Dr. Rob Brooks book “Artificial Intimacy” and then got to interview him for our podcast “Boiling Point“. As per usual, when we have such fascinating guests we always run out of time before we can get all of our questions answered and our curiosity on the subject satisfied. But this time I wanted to write more on the topic, mostly because I am biased as I also study sexual conflict and share more of my general thoughts.

Feel free to read these background blog posts on evolution, sexual selection, and sexual conflict.

When people ask me what is the coolest idea from your research stream this example always come to mind – although I could talk for HOURS about sexual conflict. During my Masters, I was supervised by Dr. Adam Chippindale, who published this fascinating paper. Briefly, Pischedda and Chippindale show that genes that are best suited for a high fitness parent of one sex, will be expressed as low fitness in the genes of the opposite sex. Let me anthropomorphize this example – relate it to humans*. Think of this as the “Brangelina effect”. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were known as a power couple. Two beautiful people or shall I say “high fitness for their represented sex”. Now going off of the hypothesis tested in the paper, Angelina has genes that will make the best daughters, but the worst sons; while Brad has the genes to make the best sons, but the worst daughters. So if they mate and have offspring they are shit out of luck.

Sexual conflict is present in humans, it’s present in any animal that has sex. Rob gives excellent examples in his book and on the podcast: while sex is cooperative you still want things to occur on your own terms, for example when sex occurs, who’s taking the kids to their extra curricular activity classes, or who’s cooking dinner that night. Many of these conflicts arise due to the “cost of sex”. The cost will rise and fall depending on time, cultural barriers, resources, etc. Rob has whole chapters dedicated to the many different factors in his book, but the most current is technology.

With social media, sex toys, dating apps, and well just more progressive times, sex is easier to come by and the cost of sex is decreased. Rob goes into many discussions in his book about this. Are sex toys, sex robots, and access to porn making us less sensitive to sex and wanting to seek more extreme scenarios? Well research suggests no. The similar argument is that violent video games turn people violent. Again research suggests no. But are AI sex robots going to replace real humans? This is a tricky one, and I am still unsure of the answer. As Rob mentions in the podcast and in his book, there are people who end up marrying their robots. But is this something that will escalate to the majority of the population? I don’t think so. Should we fear AI? Well for now we should be more aware of the data it gathers more than the AI itself: The targeted ads, the algorithms that keep us on platforms for hours at a time, our personal data being sold.

Rob takes us on a journey through human history explaining why we are the way we are, how technology may be taking advantage of our human traits, how humans have evolved with technology, and how some people may be quite displeased with the accessibility of sex for both sexes and the decreasing cost of sex. He also elegantly explains behaviours of InCels and other excuses some may have for constraining sexual freedom. In the name of the cost of sex!

I really enjoyed chatting to Rob, and I hope you do enjoyed use “grooming” you.

*I do want to stress that I anthropomorphize this hypothesis just to make it clearer, human genes are very complicated, so there are way more factors that would go into our descendants and offspring.

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